One week left to enroll in Covered California

A lot of the last minute enrollment activity is centered in community health clinics, which offer low-cost care to people who, until now, couldn't afford the cost of health insurance.
“We are seeing about 10 to 13 patients a day with each of our counselors,” said enrollment counselor Elizabeth Leal.
Leal is busier than ever; she is one of 16 counselors at the Vista Community Clinic who is putting in extra hours.
“We show (the clients) exactly what they would be paying, and what the subsidy would be for them.”
She's getting patients qualified and enrolled in the state's new health insurance marketplace, known as Covered California.
“I feel a personal satisfaction when they get enrolled, and they're going to be continuing their healthcare. They're going to be healthy, they're family will be protected and covered.”
With just one final week before the deadline to sign up, community clinics around the state expect a flood of last-minute applications. The Vista Community Clinic is one of the bigger healthcare systems in San Diego County, with five separate locations. About half of the patients that come through this system are uninsured.
For those with little or no health insurance, San Diego's network of community clinics has always offered a safety net.
“I do you think it's a good deal for more people to have health insurance,” said Nannette Stamm, clinic administrator.
Stamm says a broader base of insured could mean more financial stability for community clinics.
“If we have a larger base of our patients that have health insurance, then we're able to serve even more of those that, for whatever reason, didn't get in on the insurance or didn't qualify for any of them.”
The state officials running the exchange say enrollments are surpassing expectations. In San Diego County, more than 76,000 people signed up in the five month period ended in February – exceeding projections by 179%. In L.A. County, 241,000 people enrolled – 136% over the number projected. And in Orange County, enrollments are almost double the number which were anticipated.
“As of January 1st, we start with the senior patients,” said Gary Rotto with the Council of Community Clinics, as his members are gearing up for the new enrollments by hiring new staff.
“To be getting ready for that, I've been hiring a number of new people, from whether it's a physician to the back office. To be able to help with all kinds of different aspects with clinic work.”
Insurance broker Craig Gussin hasn't been afraid to voice his concerns about Covered California.
“For the new people,” said Gussin, “the hardest part is how do we fit it so that they can get a plan that they can afford.”
He cautions that the rates of Covered California this year may not be the same in 2015.
“We don't know how many claims are going to be out there. And if claims go up a lot, then they're going to have to raise rates.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, there is now penalty for those who don't obtain health insurance. It's $95 or 1% of your gross income – whichever is greater. If you don't meet the Obamacare deadline, you will have to wait until this October to enroll for 2015.


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